What Not to Include in Your Will

If you are considering preparing a will, this is a great first step in planning for the future. Clients often think that their will is the document that should include all their wishes and provide for the distribution of all their property and funds. That is not the case. A good estate plan includes multiple documents and often the will may be the least important of these. Many of your wishes may be carried out through the use of other documents, such as beneficiary designations,  trusts, patient advocate designations and powers of attorney. After reflecting on the basics, such as whom you want to be in charge of administering your wishes, you may wonder if there’s anything you shouldn’t include in your will. The answer is yes. There are some things that you should avoid.

Personal Preferences or Desires

Sometimes it is best not to state personal or specific feelings in your will. To simplify the administration of your will, you should not make very specific requests or engage in discussions about your feelings.

For example, you may wish for a certain religious ceremony to be performed at your funeral or you want a celebration of life event. However, it is best not to address this in your will.

A will goes through a public and court-supervised probate process. This often occurs well after someone is laid to rest. An executor will not necessarily be able to implement these wishes after the fact.

A better option may be to provide your family with a letter of instruction containing these details. If you want your burial to be done in a certain way, you can prepurchase a burial plot and, in some areas, prepay for specific arrangements. Alternatively, you can create a fund for any event you would like, with a payable-on-death designation to someone you trust.

It is also probably best not to elaborate on personal feelings about others in your will, as this can set the tone for the administration of your estate. For example, your executor may feel some trepidation about being part of a situation where there appears to be hurt feelings or potential conflict from the outset.

Organ Donation

If you wish to be an organ donor, you should not use your will as a place to specify this wish. In most states, there are specific ways to document your desire, such as listing it on your driver’s license. By the time your will is reviewed, it will be too late to do anything about your organ donation wishes.

Health Care or End-of-Life Decisions

Your will is not the right place to document what you would like to happen if you have suffered a substantial and irreversible loss of mental capacity or have an incurable or irreversible condition. You should do this in a living will.

You should also have a separate health care proxy that designates an agent to be able to speak with your doctors and make health care decisions on your behalf should you temporarily become unable to do so.

Be Careful About Leaving Inheritance to a Person With Special Needs

If you wish to provide for a person who has special needs upon your death, it is not a good idea to leave them an outright bequest in your will.

This may disqualify them from critical health and other benefits they need to manage their day-to-day life. It can also put them in a situation where they are forced to place your generous gift in a special needs trust that goes to the government upon their death if not used up. Instead, consider creating a first-party supplemental or special needs trust now or through your will.

Non-Probate Property

Another consideration of what not to include in your will is “non-probate” property. This can encompass many things, but some of the most common examples are:

  • Property held in a trust — The main point of placing property in a trust is often to avoid probate. If you have property in a trust, it doesn’t need to be in your will, as there is already a plan for handling it upon your death.
  • Property that already has beneficiary designations — For example, including things like your 401(k), IRA, or life insurance in your will can make things unnecessarily complicated or slow things down when it comes to your beneficiaries getting the funds. The best thing to do is to confirm your beneficiary designations are up to date and in line with whom you want to receive the funds.
  • Property that is jointly owned with right of survivorship — This property will pass naturally to the other person upon your death. An exception is where the other person is no longer living or has given up their rights to the property in a divorce or otherwise.

The above examples are not exhaustive. There may be more items pertaining to your situation that should not be in your will. Since every estate plan is unique, it is best to book an estate planning consult to review your specific situation. You can contact us at 989-356-6128 to do that. We will guide you through the planning steps so that you end up with the proper documents to enable someone to  handle your affairs in the way you wish  during life  as well as after death.

If you have specific questions about your situation or would like to learn more, reach out to the team at WBH here.

Read more articles:

Medicaid’s Attempt to Ensure the Healthy Spouse Is Not Impoverished: The CSRA

Medicaid law provides special protections for the spouses of Medicaid applicants to make sure the spouses have the minimum support needed to continue to live in the community while their husband or wife is receiving long-term care benefits, usually in a nursing home....

In 2022, Social Security Beneficiaries Will See the Biggest Increase in 39 Years

The year was 1983: The U.S. invaded Granada. A gallon of gas cost 96 cents. Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ video premiered. That year was also the last time that Social Security recipients saw a cost-of-living increase steeper than the one just announced for 2022. This...

Take These Three Steps When Your Child Turns 18

If your child has reached the teenage years, you may already feel as though you are losing control of her life. This is legally true once your child reaches the age of 18 because then the state considers your child to be an adult with the legal right to govern his or...

You Can Just Say No: Declining to Act as an Agent Under a Power of Attorney

Acting as an agent under a power of attorney is a big responsibility and it isn’t something everyone can take on. It is possible to resign or refuse the position. There are two main types of powers of attorney – financial and medical. As the agent under a power of...

Medicaid’s “Snapshot” Date and Its Crucial Impact on a Couple’s Financial Picture

When a married couple applies for Medicaid, the Medicaid agency must analyze the couple’s income and assets as of a particular date to determine eligibility. The date that the agency chooses for this analysis is called the “snapshot” date and it can have a major...

Should You Prepare a Medicaid Application Yourself?

Navigating the Medicaid application process can be complicated, especially if you are applying for long-term care benefits. Hiring an attorney to help you through the process can be extremely helpful. Whether you should prepare and file a Medicaid application by...

Social Security Recipients to Get Another Increase in 2023

The Social Security Administration has announced that its beneficiaries will see a significant increase – totaling nearly 9 percent – in their monthly Social Security checks come January 2023. This cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is the largest boost to Social...

How Much Should a Trustee Be Compensated?

Serving as a trustee of a trust can be a huge responsibility, so trustees are entitled to compensation for their work. The amount of compensation depends on the type of trustee and the complexity of the trust.  Depending on the trust, a trustee’s duties can include...

Majority of Adult Children Cannot Support Boomer Parents, Surveys Find

A recent survey by the American Advisors Group (AAG) finds that 55 percent of adult children say they are not financially prepared to help their Baby Boomer parents cope with rising inflation and living expenses. “Americans want to see their parents age with grace and...

The Difference Between Elder Law and Estate Planning

Elder law and estate planning serve two different--but equally vital--functions. The main difference is that elder law is focused on preserving your assets during your lifetime, while estate planning concentrates on what happens to your assets after you die.  Elder...